High cholesterol levels can cause cardiovascular disease, heart attack or strokes. There are several ways you can help reduce your LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase your HDL (good) cholesterol levels naturally.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the fats (lipids) in your blood. The body needs cholesterol to continue building healthy cells. When you have high cholesterol, you may develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. These deposits eventually make it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Your heart may not get as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs, which increases the risk of a heart attack. Decreased blood flow to your brain can cause a stroke.
Lifestyle and dietary changes are essential to improving your cholesterol levels. To reduce your "bad" cholesterol, lose excess weight, eat healthy foods and increase your physical activity. If you smoke, quit, and limit your alcohol intake. Before making any major changes to diet, exercise or adding supplements to your routine, speak with your physician.
You should start eating healthier fats. Saturated fat and trans fat raise your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Get no more than 10 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat. Monounsaturated fat, found in olive, peanut and canola oils, is a healthy option. Other sources of healthy fat include almonds and walnuts.
Try to limit your dietary cholesterol. The most concentrated sources of cholesterol include meats, egg yolks and whole milk products. Use lean cuts of meat, egg substitutes and skim milk instead.
The nutrients found in whole grains promote a healthy heart so eat whole grain breads, whole grain pasta, whole grain flour and brown rice.
Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals but have very little or no cholesterol. Eating a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables a day is good for overall health.
Some types of fish, such as cod, tuna and halibut, have less fat and cholesterol than meat and poultry. Salmon, mackerel and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help promote heart health, so try to eat these fish twice a week.
Regular exercise also can improve cholesterol levels. You should aim for 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day three to four times a week. Increased physical activity will help you lose weight. Being overweight increases the risk and complications of high cholesterol levels. Adding moderate exercise to your routine can also increase your “good" cholesterol which aids the body in removing the "bad" cholesterol from your blood stream.